This post nearly didn’t make it due to some fairly desperately sad news in our family over the weekend – but I’ve since rationalised that tragedy should make you treasure the precious moments and people in your life all the more. So it would be daft not to write about the weekend just gone for that reason alone. You can never be sure when fate might deal you a truly shitty hand – so grab those opportunities to celebrate and be amongst your loved ones whenever you can.
So, on Saturday it was a surprise slightly early birthday party for Ella which Simon and Andrea had been busy organising. The first I heard of it was a message from Simon asking me to set up a secret Facebook group to invite people to – unfortunately the eagle-eyed Ella was with me at the time… “What are you talking about with my Dad?” came the inevitable question, I’m not a good bluffer at the best of times but kinda got away with it.
The only other significant gauntlet to run was Brad’s gig up in Eastwood where plenty of now co-conspirators were present – but again, whilst she was aware stuff was afoot we got away with it for the most part. The Saturday before her birthday as far as she was concerned involved going to Annie’s for lunch then heading out for a meal later, where I suspect she was expecting a few surprise faces to mysteriously be present at.
A sticking point was getting to the Black Market Venue – I concocted a probably overly elaborate plot that Dave wanted to chat with Ella about some photography stuff for the venue, and since it was near the restaurant we were headed to (ah, thank heavens for her lack of local knowledge!) I said we’d pop in for a drink with him – then he could lead us into the back room (where it’s a bit quieter) and everyone could yell SURPRISE and we could get on with the celebrating.
A bumper crop of familiar faces filled the room, including five musical acts – not least The Leylines, probably her favourite band alongside Ferocious Dog. Her Mum, aunties and sister had made the trip up from the south and countless other folk from near and far – it was lovely. I must confess that I got quite drunk and spent an awful lot of time chinwagging so my usually pedantic habit of noting set lists down went right out the window – however…
Brian Stone started up the music – a mixture of his own songs like Where’s The Rum Gone and Life Begins at Fifty, a cover of FD’s very own Quiet Paddy and a soppy duet of Pretty Target having coerced a reluctant Ella on stage with him. I fancy there might have been a spot of Let The East Winds Blow of Gaz Brookfield fame in there too. Brad Dear soon followed, Ella grabbed a chair to sit and watch right at the front – and led a massive conga line on five laps of the venue during Special Brew, which left us all a bit knackered to be honest.
The Star Botherers definitely played Star Wars Bride, they sang Happy Birthday to half the room, Shanks’ Pony – sadly lacking Helen on violin (and this is where my memory starts to fade in absolute earnest) definitely played Mosh Pit Waltz, they definitely had Hannah up to help with her violin, and Sam Jones popped up on stage too with a harmonica for a song. I can see from the photos that have surfaced I was clearly having a whale of a time and dancing along, but to what? Well who knows?
The Leylines were the headline act – booked as a three piece as part of their album fundraising scheme – but actually performing as a foursome with Pete making the trip up too to play bass. I can honestly say that I have very very sketchy memories of this at all – I know Ella was up on my shoulders, I know her getting down wasn’t graceful and she’s got a bruised knee as a result, I know that there was a surf involving her standing on me – I also know some bugger tied my shoelaces together whilst this was occurring (Wez?!), I know I danced like a bugger throughout.
Apparently there was an encore performance involving Brian, Ella and Hannah doing Riverflow then Ella singing Jolene. I know this because I’ve got a video of it that I took on my phone (according to a video Kev recorded I recorded it whilst lying down and being dragged along the floor!), but well, it was news to me upon waking on Sunday and reviewing my phone stream. It was definitely a good night – whilst the short notice, conflicting events and geography meant folk were missing it was a great turn out – thank you so much to everyone who came and celebrated with us.
There is even talk of it becoming an annual event to ward off the January blues. I didn’t notice the total, but a sizeable number of donations for local foodbanks were gathered too – and Ella is now in possession of a terrifying amount of Jägermeister and some other really kind gifts. All in all, a wonderful evening amongst many of my very favourite people, and receiving and starting to try to process what has happened since it realise does bring into stark relief that you must grasp these awesome moments in life, because it can be all be taken from you so cruelly.
There’s some photos from Waggy here (which I’ve mercilessly plundered to accompany these words), from Ferocious Photography here and other dotted around the murky world of Facebook. We’ve yet to see the terrifying number of photos Ella’s mum Becki took over the course of the evening – so that’s something to look forward to (or dread – haha!). Forgive the hazy memories and the brevity – but in this instance I think they are sure fire signs of a successful operation – hats off to Simon and Andrea for their organising prowess!
Oh, and to return to the main subject of the whole event, Ella has set up a new website for her photography which you can find by clicking here!